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Review: Terror in the Skies (2019)

Terror in the Skies is an independent documentary from the renowned indie production company Small Town Monsters. The documentary takes a look at flying or winged phenomena within the illinois area, with the subjects ranging from the famed Thunderbird to the more dubious “Chicago Mothman”.

The Small Town Monsters crew are known for their features on various cryptozoological and Fortean phenomena, and this film was no different. The film blends interviews with cryptozoology legends such as Loren Coleman with dramatised recreations of significant events involving the various cryptids mentioned. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. As an avid lover of all things Fortean getting this film sent to me for review was exhilarating to say the least.

For those of you already in the Fortean sphere, much of the ground covered will be nothing new as many of the accounts such as the Lawndale incident are widely known already and not much new information if any is given. This does not, however, take away any enjoyment or fascination one might feel when watching the film. The interviews conducted with various professionals and fringe experts are endlessly entertaining, and I feel that a good balance between rational sceptic and believing Fortean is struck. Instead of blindly stating that everything is as reported, the individuals interviewed take the time to try and rationalise the sightings and encounters and to make sense of them first before proclaiming them to be giant birds of myth and legend.

The film blends archive footage of Illinois well with new footage to create a picture of a state historically steeped in blood and superstition, in an attempt to see what our belief in these creatures can say about our society as a whole. The dying midwestern agricultural industry coupled with the years of bloodshed that formed Illinois into what it is today serves as a central figure in the greater commentary, and works well to show that the belief in winged creatures and the immense volume of sightings perhaps is connected to a social regression as cultural and industrial change results in uncertainty for the people of Illinois. Perhaps it is this uncertainty that yields such hysteric accounts of winged humanoids and prehistoric beasts running amok. Perhaps instead these accounts are all true, and instead the uncertainty comes from our inability to understand that our perception of the world is therefore wrong. None of these things are, or ever will be clear, but what is certain is that we will never truly understand our world fully, and it is this core message that Terror in the Skies does so well to convey in its 1 hour 8 minute runtime through a pastiche of airborne beasties.

As mentioned, the footage and camera work for this film is excellent, and while I would usually commend or condemn the performances, the non-fictional aspect of this film means that I cannot. In place of that, I will say that the interviews given and the testimonies from investigators seem genuine, and one of the biggest strengths of the people involved is their honesty and their lack of embellishment with the accounts. Some of the accounts may indeed just be Condors or Turkey Vultures, and to their merit the people involved never try to claim otherwise. This journalistic integrity is oft omitted from films or documentaries about Fortean elements, as so many people are willing to jump straight to ignorant belief in something that likely does not exist.

VERDICT: Overall, I highly recommend this documentary to those acquainted with and ignorant to fringe paranormal topics. To those with no prior interest in this section of study, I hope that perhaps a greater curiosity about the world is stimulated and if that is the case this film would be an excellent starting point. I would give this film an 8.5/10


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